Bert, I’ll see your SOME-DED-TREES with POOR-DEAD-TREES

Bert’s done some nice posts on his SOcialME DesignED TREE transplant Study (or SOME DED TREES). I’m going to add to the discussion with a new addition to my Preventing Optimization Of Roots DecrEAseD TREE Survival (or POOR DEAD TREES) series.

It took a while, but the prediction I made in 2010 has come true. You’ll have to look at the link to see the whole story, but the bottom line is that this tree lasted only 7 years before succumbing to poor planting practices.

Here is the tree when it was planted in 2007. Note the lack of root flare (planted too deep) but the very obvious presence of orange nylon twine around the roots and the trunk.

Pine%202007.jpg   Orange%20twine.jpg

Here it is again in 2010. Note the dieback at the top and overall chlorosis.


And here it was yesterday.

Bush tree 2014Yes, it’s dead – dead and gone. I’m not sure exactly when it was removed, but it lasted less than 7 years. Conifers have lifespans of decades or centuries. There was no excuse for this poor installation, though I keep getting the argument from landscape installers that it costs too much to do it right (i.e., to remove the twine and burlap, if not the clay itself). Keep in mind that warranties only last for a year, so the property owner gets to eat the replacement cost caused by crappy installation practices.

We GP’s may continue to disagree about how much rootballs should be disturbed when planting, but I know that none of us would agree that planting B&B trees intact is a good idea.

Spring = really?

You've got to be kidding...
Bebe the Wonder Dog says “You’ve got to be kidding…”

I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet, but I am not feeling SPRING. Here in the Blue Ridge of Virginia (Zone 6), March is averaging 10 F below average. Snow and ice is piled up on the north side of buildings. My Herbaceous Landscape Plants class is not impressed by the inch-tall Mertensia and the fact that the only thing we can call a cool-season annual (pansies/violas) is brown mush. All the delightful Zone 7 things I’ve been pushing on people for several years here – er, whoops. This is as far north as I’ve ever lived (please don’t mock me Bert). I’m tired of bales of laundry. Flannel sheets, corduroy, fleece…I am NOT good with winter. I admit I am at my best with only one layer on. And if one more person says “at least we’ll have fewer ticks”…

California here we come…

Linda and I are in Sacramento this week for the National eXtension Conference. I will be presenting later in the week on the work that we have done on the SOME-DED-TREES project. More on that in later posts. In the meantime, here are some photos from the State Capitol Park here in Sacramento. If you are ever in the area, I encourage you to check it out since the Park also doubles as an arboretum. The combination of mild winter temperatures and irrigation allows for as wide an array of trees as you are likely to see on one location. Many, but not all, of the trees have tags with common and scientific names. There are also numbered tags for a “Tree tour”. I have searched several sources for the tour map and came up empty. Judging by the condition of the tags and the number of missing tags, it looks like a forgotten project. If anyone has any insights, let me know. Or if you know an Eagle Scout in the Sacramento area, re-tagging and mapping would make a great project.

Palm tree tagged on the State Capitol Park Tree Tour

Italian stone pine Pinus pinea

Bark pattern (looked to be some type of Cuppressus but tag was missing

Tags need some work…

Lots of nice coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens)

Giant sequoia (Sequioadendron giganteum) as a street tree? These actually looked like they were doing well and then hit the wall. Note the fading top.

The park also includes a small rose garden and cactus garden.

You can hedge almost anything if you’re determined, even azaleas…

DSC_1396Just for Linda: Topiary at the hotel across the street.

Cork oak (Quercus suber)

FreezePruf revisited

I received a comment over the weekend requesting an update on an article I posted back in February of 2010 (Wow, hard to believe we’ve been at it that long!) about FreezePruf, a product that is purported to improve freeze tolerance of garden plants. The ingredients and proposed mode of action of FreezePruf are described in my earlier post, so I won’t repeat them here. Back in 2010, there were no published studies available on the efficacy of FreezePruf; just advertising claims from the manufacturer and data that were included in the patent application.

Since then, there have been two studies published on FreezePruf. One was authored Dr. David Francko at the University of Alabama, who lead the group that developed the product, and the second study was by Dr. Jeff Anderson at Oklahoma State.

Francko et al. (2011) conducted a series of trials, mainly with palms, oranges, and other warm region plants and found that FreezePruf was often highly effective in reducing freeze injury. For example, the figure below suggests that spraying plants with FreezePruf can increase freeze tolerance by 2.3 to 9.4 deg. F. (Note: the authors’ also included two additional palms and two banana cultivars in this portion of the trial; I have simplified their table to show the two extremes and an intermediate response).


Anderson (2012) applied FreezePruf based on label directions and found no change in freezing point depression in peppers, celosia, or tomatoes. Anderson also found that Freezepruf did not improve cold hardiness of Bermudagrass stolons.


So what gives? Is FreezePruf useful or not and why did the studies reach opposite conclusions? Anderson published his paper after Francko et al. but doesn’t offer a clear explanation beyond the use of different plant materials; with the exception of tomatoes, which were included in both trials but still gave different results. One possibility is that the spray may be more effective on perennial plants, especially on older leaves. For instance, in the Francko et al. study they applied FreezePruf to young and old leaves on oranges trees and found a greater and more consistent improvement in cold hardiness on the older leaves than the new leaves. For those of us in the northern U.S., this suggests the product may be of limited use. Typically our greatest concern in protecting plants from freezing is early in season; right after we’ve jumped the gun and planted our annuals and vegetable plugs. Could FreezePruf protect your new petunias from that predicted 25 deg. F night? There is no clear answer in the data so I’ll stick with the tried and true and cover my plants with old bedsheets.

Literature cited:

Anderson, J. 2012. Does FreezePruf Topical Spray Increase Plant Resistance to Freezing Stress? HortTechnology 22(4):542-546.

Francko, D.A., K.G. Wilson, Q.Q.Li, and M.A. Equiza. 2011. Topical Spray to Enhance Plant Resistance to Cold Injury and Mortality. HortTechnology 21(1):109-118.

A DIY Debunking Guide

Debunking myths is at the heart of the Garden Professors blog. The impetus for initiating the blog is rooted in Linda’s ‘Horticultural Myths’ Series and Jeff’s “The Truth About…” books. Unfortunately, I’ve never been especially good at myth-busting or debating. When confronted with someone with deeply held beliefs that are based on misinformation, it usually doesn’t take long for me to lose my cool and my arguments devolve into, “Pull your head out of your a— and face the facts…”

At a holiday dinner not too long ago, a relative suggested “You know, there may be something to the anti-immunization thing…” The words were barely out before I could feel my wife’s hand on my thigh in a futile effort to keep me calm. “Are you fricking nuts?” I shot back automatically. “The only reason Jenny McCarthy or anyone else can even THINK about not vaccinating their kid is because the rest of the herd already took care of business.” Fortunately cooler heads at the table changed the subject before the debate escalated to violence.

the debunking handbook

Now for the myth-busting challenged among us, Australians John Cook and Stephen Lowandowsky have developed the Debunking handbook. The guide looks at some of the psychology of myth-busting (A simple myth is cognitively more appealing than an over-complicated correction) and suggests debate strategies (Adhere to the KISS principle). The guide is linked at the SkepticalScience website and is largely geared toward dealing with climate change deniers, but the principles and tips are useful for dealing with all manner of scientific misinformation